Writing My Grief: Days 1-4

I've joined an online writing class called Writing Your Grief. It has been a great class and community, and it gives me a much-needed excuse to write daily. Today is Day 4. 

I am not going to share all my writing from this course. Some of it is too personal. It's a bit like therapy on paper. But I'll share a little, because I do that.

A brief disclaimer: the writing is not intended to be 100% accurate. Don't get all concerned about me. You all know that I'm a complicated person with deep feelings who is also very grounded and supported right now. Getting these big feelings out feels good. I hope something connects with you, too. 

Day 2:  On what you don't see

My boat is afloat on deep, deep water. 
You cannot see what lies beneath. 
You see only the boat.
And it looks fine.
So you tell me, "you're doing great."

And it's not your fault
That you can't see the stormy undercurrent that's always there
Threatening to surface at any moment and take this boat down

It's not your fault
That you want to tell me something good
So you focus on what you want to see
Because the part that is hidden is so horrifying
You're scared to go there
(Wouldn't it be great if it really wasn't there? Wouldn't it be great if I were truly "all better"?)

But you know enough not to ask
You know well enough that there is something simmering below the surface
You tell me you "can't imagine"

But you can image
You're just scared to
You know it's there
Sometimes you see it out of the corner of your eye
An errant tear, or a thousand-mile stare
And I'll bet you wonder what's going on
I'll bet you wonder
But perhaps the truth would be too terrifying
And perhaps I'd never tell you anyways
Because sharing this horror doesn't make it go away
So I just float on
Keeping my head above water
Despite everything that's pulling me down.

3/27/18 hmv


Day Day 5: A Letter from my friend Grief

Dear Hannah, 

I'm sorry we have come to know each other so well lately. I have really only briefly visited you before, and you've dodged me several times. Though you didn't know it. But now I'm here! I'm really, really here. And you don't have a choice, I know. 

Your good friend and mentor told you that you had a million tears to cry. That is true. I will make sure you cry those tears. It will happen whenever it needs to happen, and not always when it is convenient for you. Sorry, my dear. That's the way it works. It always has. People have tried to kick me out before. They have tried to sweep me away. I see them re-apply their make-up, force themselves to smile, go out, stay in, eat food, eat nothing. It doesn't matter. Those tears will happen. They need to get out.

I sound harsh, don't I? I have been around for ages, I know my role in this world. This difficult, heartbreaking world. I may be harsh, but I am as real as it gets. There is nothing so profound as that deep pit of sorrow that knocks you over and demands your attention. It hurts in your heart, because that is where this all comes from. That's where it started, where it hurts, and where it will heal. 

Will I ever go away? I'm afraid I don't know. Much of this depends on you, too. You already know that you can take steps to make this a little better (but I'll circle back at some point). You already know that you can go a day without crying. Why not go a week? It can happen. I have seen it.

But you can't chase me out. I've come to be with you a while. You need me. You don't want to hear that, but you need me. I will serve a purpose in your life, and you will find a space for me. That space may be smaller and smaller. It may be more and more occasional that you visit this space. But here I will be.

This is not a journey with an endpoint, so don't think of it like that. A part of your world has opened up and I've come charging in to fill that void for now. There is room for other possibilities in this space. In time, it will become clear. You will make this your own, and you will live beautifully.

3/30/18 hmv

Does gratitude work? An in-depth report from a year-long gratitude project

My friend and fellow blogger Carolyn from And Then They... started a gratitude project one year ago. She made a new years' resolution and actually saw it through for an entire year. Amazing. I'd been following her project on her blog, then I read an article on the subject of gratitude. It cited several interesting findings about gratitude projects like this from the book, Gratitude Works! by Robert Emmons, and I'm curious if they're true. I'm also interested in any little thing that can be done on a daily basis to slow things down, take stock of what matters, and focus on the positive. (Baby Henry is 3 months old already! When did that happen?!)

Maybe you're interested in taking on a little challenge to make your 2015 better? This could be just the thing. Carolyn was kind enough to answer my questions about her journey, for all our benefit. Here's what she had to say:

1. What made you want to start a project like this?

I think it all started during November 2013.  On Instagram, I started doing the #30daysofgratitude, and really liked it.  I loved taking the time to take a photo of something that made me feel grateful, and posting it to Instagram.  Ali Edwards has  project called One Little Word, and I've done it in the past.  The idea is that you pick a word to be your focus for the year.  After having fun with gratitude in November, I decided to make it a focus for the entire year. 

2. How did your gratitude project work? What were the rules?

I wanted to make Gratitude very present and tangible in my life, and things just sort of fell into place for how I documented it.  My friend gave me a Christmas gift that included a 'best of my days' calendar.  I decided to use this to write down one word each day, saying something for which I was grateful.  Then, I posted those words, along with a photo dump of the week on my blog.  There rules were that I would only write one word a day.  I wanted it to be a single word - not too much stress, not too much detail.  Sometimes, I missed a day, but I would always think back and catch up.

3. In one study by Emmons, he found that people who wrote down one thing they were grateful for each day reported being 25% happier. Another study showed that the subjects had decreased symptoms of depression. Did your project make you feel happier?

I have always been a very positive person, so I'm not sure I can say if the project made me happier.  It made me think about happiness and gladness during the year.  I haven't written about gratitude since 2014 ended, and I don't think I've become more depressed, but I do miss consciously thinking about gratitude.  But, that's the thing about the One Little Word project, your words never really leave you.  When you spend a year with a word, it becomes part of you.

4. Another side effect of gratitude is better health (lower stress hormones, stronger heart, fewer sinful activities like smoking and drinking). Did you experience this?

I'm pretty sure I drank as much wine in 2014 (well, more, since I had been pregnant in 2013).  I definitely didn't get into shape, so I was clearly still eating too much ice cream.  (But, that's why my word for this year is Strong!)  I have to say, though, that 2014 was a ridiculously stressful year.  My husband was forced to switch careers, I had two tiny kids, I had my own job dramas, health scares.  I was able to stay positive throughout it (mostly), and I'd say that giving thanks helped.  There were days when I had to dig pretty deep to find something for which to be grateful, but I always found it.  Maybe without the gratitude, I would have eaten way more ice cream, or taken up smoking!  Who knows?

5. I've heard that you can improve your relationship simply by being more grateful of your partner. I guess over time your partner notices this and then starts to reciprocate the love and gratitude and then there you go: perfect relationship. Is this true?

One of the most surprising things that I found at the end of the project, was that I rarely wrote my husband's name down as my daily gratitude.  I figured that was because it felt too obvious to write his name.  Of course I was grateful for him.  It sort of felt like cheating to write his name.  I wasn't trying to just grab the low-hanging fruit, I was trying to dig deeper.  So, I don't know if this happened with us.  I do hope that my positivity was apparent to him, and possibly helped him through the stressful job hunt, and starting his new job.

6. Some other gratitude theories recommend sharing your appreciation with the people that you are grateful for. Do you think there is a difference between quietly tracking what you are grateful for and publicly thanking people that you appreciate? Would you have done anything differently?

Certainly, I think it is important to share our appreciation.  I posted my words on my blog most weeks, so it was very public.  But, not very personal.  I would write 'friends' or 'family,' so if they read it, they might know I was grateful for them, but that isn't the same as looking your friends or family in the eye and saying you appreciate them.  I wouldn't change how I did things last year, but this year, one of my goals for Strong is to make my relationships stronger.  I plan on writing a letter - more specifically, a thank you note - once a week.  I spent last year giving thanks for the people in my life, this year I plan on actually thanking them.

Carolyn and Her Beautiful Daughter .. oh I miss summer!

Carolyn and Her Beautiful Daughter .. oh I miss summer!

7. Do you recommend a project like this to others?

Definitely.  The 'best of my days' is a great way to get started.  It makes the world a beautiful place to look for the gladness in it.  And can you imagine if everyone did it?  And even more - if everyone took the time to actually thank others?

Thanks, C! To read more about Carolyn, her family, and her many projects (including an Etsy shop!) follow her at And Then They...

Short write: 5 Questions & Answers

My friend and fellow blogger at And Then They... challenged me to answer the following. It was fun to talk about some of my recent projects (around the house and writing-related), and I'm super motivated to take on some more! (After I take care of this one other little thing growing inside me...)

1. What are you working on right now?

Right now I have two drafts in my blog list. One is a pregnancy journal I've been writing since sometime around 15 weeks. I am 39 weeks now. Might be time to publish that...not sure that I want to though. It's one of those blog posts that's really more of a journal, so I might just print it or save it elsewhere. Does anyone else do that?

The second draft is about all the things I like about being a working mom. I started it after reading a few other posts about how to "survive" being a working mother, or worse, how to get over the guilt of being a working mother. I was inspired to write unapologetically about all the great things about working and parenting. There are so many things to love, honestly, we need to stop pretending like we all really wish we could stay home full time, but -shucks!- we can't! The jig is up, working parents like to work too.

Oh I'm also working on growing a baby in my belly. In case that hasn't been made abundantly clear.

2. How long does it take you to create a project?

FOR-ever. Sometimes. Sometimes I'm inspired and I write it all down in one big explosion. This is what happened when I wrote about sometimes there's sad times. Even the title just sort of rolled out of me, and I didn't think too much about whether or not to post it. It had to be said.

Most often, though, I start a post and then I add to it and edit it for several days, sometimes weeks. I wish I were faster, but that's just my style I think. I'm always trying to throw a few fast/shorties in the mix to keep the writing happening.

Oh and if this question is about other types of projects ... well, the same kind of applies. I start it, wait several days, pick it up again, and hopefully at some point I finish it.

3. What are my favorite things to create with at the moment?

Well, writing, obviously. I had fun taking on some home projects this summer too. "Pinteresting," I call it. I made a cool collage above our bookshelf. And reorganized the bookshelf in a fun way to show off the colors of the books.

Most of the collage was made with garage sale frames that I spray-painted white, and a garage sale Van Gogh poster that I cut up cleverly, I think. In the bookshelf you can see a few little porcelain animals, also spray-painted white. The baskets are also white. Really ties the whole thing together.

Most of the collage was made with garage sale frames that I spray-painted white, and a garage sale Van Gogh poster that I cut up cleverly, I think. In the bookshelf you can see a few little porcelain animals, also spray-painted white. The baskets are also white. Really ties the whole thing together.

I put up another bookshelf in a corner to house Little O's toys and make them visible. Also re-surfaced the back of yet another bookshelf with fabric. Basically the answer here is, I do weird stuff with shelving. 

This Craigslist find put me back $15 bones. Not bad! At that price I figured we could try this organizing strategy and THEN decide if we liked it or not. So far so good! Who needs those fancy toy organizer bin things after all?

This Craigslist find put me back $15 bones. Not bad! At that price I figured we could try this organizing strategy and THEN decide if we liked it or not. So far so good! Who needs those fancy toy organizer bin things after all?

So COOL, right?! And it was so easy. (Pardon the mess too) I found the geometric fabric in two colors that seemed fun but simple enough for the room. It takes this bookshelf that we use for storage to a much more decorative level and distracts from the boring function of the piece.

So COOL, right?! And it was so easy. (Pardon the mess too) I found the geometric fabric in two colors that seemed fun but simple enough for the room. It takes this bookshelf that we use for storage to a much more decorative level and distracts from the boring function of the piece.

We also got new floors and painted the living room blue. So projects abound in this house. 

2014-07-23 08.19.43.jpg

Until recently. Now it's all baby-growing all the time. 

4. How do I become inspired and stay inspired?

Blogs, Pinterest, articles I find on Facebook. My answer is the same as Carolyn's. It's relatively easy to find inspiration, and no shortage of things to do. It's hard to stay inspired long enough to see new projects through. I'd like to learn to sew, but the combination of not owning a machine and the scary learning curve...well, let's just say I'm taking baby steps. Step 1 was watching Carolyn sew something for me. I learned a lot that way. And it got done 1000% faster that way!

5. What is my signature style? 

I'm not sure what this means or if I should really answer it. If it's about writing style, I hope that is clear enough from my writing. And explaining it is a bit like walking someone through a joke. It's like, you'll understand it, but it's not really funny anymore?

My decorating style however ... hmmm, I would call it modern/classic-affordable. Well, ok...affordable. That's what I'd call it. I really like to find great deals on furniture, I like do-it-yourself crafts and re-purposing projects. It's fun to flip through Wayfair.com and find a perfect piece of furniture (a shelving unit most likely). But it's even more exciting to find a used piece and upgrade it, make it all perfect for what I want to use it for, and pay very little money. I'm totally that girl that gets a compliment and is like "I know, I found it on SALE!!"


Light Life Moments: When Your Child Is Hurt

Last weekend we went on a little outing to the Science Factory, which was super fun and entertaining and funny until everything went terribly wrong and I left feeling furious.

So how did that happen?

The Science Factory is a delightful local place where families go to let their kids run around and play with the displays and experiment with science a little. When we went, we had the added bonus of seeing a reptile display (and the very entertaining family of handlers whose obsession with snakes and lizards can only be described as ... all-encompassing).

The very last thing we looked at was a display that had some kind of wind-up tool that you would whirl around to see how fast you can burn calories (I think). Little did we know that this particular display had a knack for chomping up little fingers that found their way into its path. And Lil O learned this the hard way.

It is one of the things I like least in life, or in parenting especially, when you go from a super high to a super low. It is hard to switch gears so quickly, and you don't want to switch gears. You want to keep the fun part going. You don't want the bummer part to be real. So I feel very tempted to ignore it or move quickly past it.

But when your child is hurt, everything comes to a screeching halt.

O screamed and *PAUSED* takeabigbreath and SCREAAAAAMed some more. It was intense. I grabbed her and rushed her into the bathroom and we washed off her scraped little finger as I tried to figure out what had just happened.

When we came back out, Jake had gone over to the desk to ask for a band-aid, which they gave us. Okay. But this didn't seem like enough. I couldn't understand why they were standing there letting other patrons in while they could see my child crying.

"Do you want to talk to them?" Jake was sort of cringing. I sort of was too. I hate being "that mom." But WTF...you just can't go around hurting my kid with your calorie machines!

I went over and fumbled some words at them. The front desk lady had me fill out an accident report. Okay. We put exactly three things down on the paper. Not enough.

I didn't really know what to do next. I still don't. I told them that they really need to rethink putting that display out there for kids, because the little warning sign is too small, written in absurd font, and oh yeah...MY KID CAN'T READ.  Grrr.

Later, of course, I thought of more things to say ("I am a lawyer goddammit! And that should make you more concerned than you are currently acting!!"). And I felt a bit embarrassed that I didn't do or say more. I didn't exactly turn on the mama bear instincts. Or the lawyer ones, I guess. But I am not certain it would have done any good. I could have made a scene, threatened them, probably freaked Olivia out. Not exactly my style.

But that doesn't stop me from feeling that parental self-doubt. Or regret. Guilt, perhaps? There's always guilt.

I guess at the end of the day I just want her to know that I will be there for her; that if the mama bear was needed, I would do it. (I pity the children's museum that ever does real harm to my child. I will RAIN down on that place like a hurricane of fists and subpoenas.)

But I didn't think it was necessary in this instance, and ultimately I think we will get to a better result by acting rationally. That's the goal anyways, I still need to give them a call back. And I'm planning* to be perfectly reasonable.

*provided they do what I ask